24. Seven of Infinities 25. Only You Can Save Mankind

I read Aliette de Bodard’s Seven of Infinities for an SF meetup I want to try out this week. Fortunately, as a novella, it wasn’t difficult to get through it in time for the meeting. I haven’t read any of the other books in this universe, and it might be that doing so would improve the experience. The action of the story is swift and compelling. I found the setting intriguing, but a little obscure in places–the title reference, for instance, suggests the tarot but seems to refer to a mahjong-style game piece. Much is implied but never explained, which I suppose you’ll have with shorter works, but I would have liked some more solidity. And the characters are individually fine, but in many places I had a difficult time figuring out why they were behaving the way they did. There’s a romance story in this, but it feels like it takes place by authorial fiat; it could have used more buttressing.

Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind is one that I pull out every few years and reread with a deep, fond satisfaction. It’s a familiar trope at this point — John Maxwell, age 12, plays a computer game that turns out to be surprisingly real — but the approach and the philosophy are completely Pratchett. The book was published in 1992, not long after Good Omens, and there’s a lot of that same style in it. Pratchett was hitting his stride with the Discworld books then (Small Gods was also published in ’92), and clearly had the same kinds of thing on his mind no matter what universe the story took place in. The technology (and the background of the Gulf War) date OYCSM sharply at this point, but since that date happens to overlap my own adolescence, I don’t mind, even though I never got into that kind of computer game. I will continue to reread this one every few years, I suspect.     

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